A Book that Needs to Happen

Recently, I told a young friend of mine about the glorious heyday of the Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey books. I loved those books. I assume most of y’all are familiar with them, but in case you missed them, they were short and sweet, with one deep thought per page. For example:

“To me, clowns aren’t funny. In fact, they’re kinda scary. I’ve wondered where this started, and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus and a clown killed my dad.”

~OR~

“I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they’d never expect it.”

I could go on and on. I don’t know why those books, and books like them, have gone out of vogue. After all, our attention spans have only gotten shorter. I think they need to make a comeback, and I know the perfect vehicle to bring them back. And no, the answer is not Charlie Sheen. The answer is:

Mike Tyson loves pigeons. For serious.

MIKE TYSON.

Some quotes from Iron Mike:

“I’m a dreamer. I have to dream and reach for the stars, and if I miss a star then I grab a handful of clouds.”

“I paid a worker at New York’s zoo to re-open it just for me and Robin. When we got to the gorilla cage there was one big silverback gorilla in there just bullying all the other gorillas. They were so powerful but their eyes were like an innocent infant. I offered the attendant $10,000 to open the cage and let me smash that silverback’s snotbox! He declined.”

“My main objective is to be professional but to kill him.”

“Fear is your best friend or your worst enemy. It’s like fire. If you can control it, it can cook for you; it can heat your house. If you can’t control it, it will burn everything around you and destroy you. If you can control your fear, it makes you more alert, like a deer coming across the lawn.”

“My power is discombobulatingly devastating. I could feel his muscle tissues collapse under my force. It’s ludicrous these mortals even attempt to enter my realm.”

“I feel like sometimes that I was born, that I’m not meant for this society because everyone here is a f**king hypocrite. Everybody says they believe in God but they don’t do God’s work. Everybody counteracts what God is really about. If Jesus was here, do you think Jesus would show me any love? Do you think Jesus would love me? I’m a Muslim, but do you think Jesus would love me … I think Jesus would have a drink with me and discuss … why you acting like that? Now, he would be cool. He would talk to me. No Christian ever did that and said in the name of Jesus even … They’d throw me in jail and write bad articles about me and then go to church on Sunday and say Jesus is a wonderful man and he’s coming back to save us. But they don’t understand that when he comes back, that these crazy greedy capitalistic men are gonna kill him again.”

“All praise is to Allah, I’ll fight any man, any animal, if Jesus were here I’d fight him too.”

“I’m the most irresponsible person in the world. The reason I’m like that is because, at 21, you all gave me $50 or $100 million, and I didn’t know what to do. I’m from the ghetto. I don’t know how to act. One day I’m in a dope house robbing somebody. The next thing I know, ‘You’re the heavyweight champion of the world.’ … Who am I? What am I? I don’t even know who I am. I’m just a dumb child. I’m being abused. I’m being robbed by lawyers. I think I have more money than I do. I’m just a dumb pugnacious fool. I’m just a fool who thinks I’m someone. And you tell me I should be responsible?”

“I’m on the Zoloft to keep from killing y’all.”

“I’m just a dark guy from a den of iniquity. A dark shadowy figure from the bowels of iniquity. I wish I could be Mike who gets an endorsement deal. But you can’t make a lie and a truth go together. This country wasn’t built on moral fiber. This country was built on rape, slavery, murder, degradation and affiliation with crime.”

“Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”

 “I never saw my mother happy with me and proud of me for doing something: She only knew me as being a wild kid running the streets, coming home with new clothes that she knew I didn’t pay for. I never got a chance to talk to her or know about her. Professionally, it has no effect, but it’s crushing emotionally and personally.”

Ahhh…Mike Tyson. He’s got a strange sort of wisdom about him, but the surprising thing is, it’s a genuine sort of wisdom. I’d buy that book. Fo’ reals.

RIP, Kenneth Mars

Kenneth Mars, 1935-2011. This is how I remember him.

In one of my previous lives, I worked retail in Beverly Hills. I saw celebrities on a regular basis. Most just walked in and walked out. Some were nice, like Aaron Eckhart. Some were even nicer, like Jane Lynch and Ellen DeGeneres, both of whom laughed at my jokes. Some were deeply frightening – I’m looking at your creepily ill-defined mug, Priscilla Presley. 

To my great dismay, I missed a legendary visit from Lauren Bacall, who swept in while wearing a cape, picked up a blue tablecloth, announced, “This is precisely the color of Gary Cooper’s eyes!” Picked out several thousand dollars worth of merchandise and then swept out, stating, “You will send this to my hotel!” Not that my co-workers knew where the hell she was staying, or who would pay for it once it got there. But, believe you me, they figured it out. Just as I magically figured out where to send Priscilla Presley’s mountain cabin decor. Such is life serving celebrities.

So, our experiences with celebrities were frequently one-offs. Except for Dennis Franz, who’d show up everyday with a bag of candy, just wandering around, eating, not buying anything. Nothing against Dennis Franz, but I don’t really count him. He wasn’t a customer, he was just killing time, presumably between the end of his stint on NYPD Blue and the grave. 

But we did have one regular customer who was also a celebrity, and his name was Kenneth Mars. He was mine to take care off, which thrilled me to no end. I was raised on The Producers and Young Frankenstein, and I do mean, raised on them. My dad has always been a strange sleeper, and often the only thing that would lull him to sleep was a lay down on the couch, to the accompaniment of The Producers. If I’ve seen The Producers once, I’ve seen it 200 times. To this day I can recite the entire thing. So when Kenneth Mars walked in, I was floored. There are few people on this earth who would’ve made a bigger impression on me, and they are Gene Wilder and Mike Nelson. If you don’t know who Mike Nelson is, I am sorry for you.

So, Kenneth Mars was on a quest for new furniture, and he’d come in regularly to test dining room sets. A big guy, he never could find a table that would give his legs proper clearance. In fact, he called me Midget, and I called him Gigantor. He was loud and crazy and I ate it up with a spoon. He’d frequently berate me and the selection of tables. “What’s wrong with you? Can’t you get a decent table in here?” While I stood there on the inside going, “hee hee hee hee!!!!”  But on the outside I’d respond in kind, saying, “Maybe we don’t make tables for giant people, maybe you should go somewhere else.” Once my manager pulled me aside and said, “I’m uncomfortable with the way he’s treating you. I think I need someone else to step in.” I was appalled. “It’s Kenneth Mars! He’s being funny! I’m being funny! I’m being funny with Kenneth Mars! Try to take this away from me and I’ll cut you.”

One day, the day he finally decided to buy something, I wasn’t there. I don’t know who handled the transaction, but when he next came in, to pick it up, the vibe was off. He seemed agitated and unhappy, not his usual cheerful self. I got the impression somebody had tried to tame him in my absence. Maybe they’d said something like, “Please stop berating our selection of tables. They are all very fine, ridiculously over expensive tables, and we are proud of them.” But Kenneth Marses aren’t for taming. He was the author, we were the audience, and he outranked us.

Actors are not animals, they’re human beings! — They are? Have you ever eaten with one of them?

Ego Boost

So, I had an uncharacteristically angsty week there! It’s almost as if I grew up in the Seattle area during the age of Nirvana. I was seriously about twenty minutes from putting on some flannel and writing horrendously bad haikus about my shoulder. Something like: Shoulder, you failed me/Abandoned to the elastic/Band of therapy. Or perhaps, Mortality looms/Age cripples youth, crumbling away/Hello, elastic band. 

It’s true, yo. Physical therapy really does make mad use of that elastic band. On the plus side, my physical therapist sounds exactly like J. Lo and looks like her, too. So if I close my eyes, it’s like J. Lo’s there. And if I open them it’s still kinda like J. Lo’s there. So entertaining!

Anyway, during the angst, I realized I hadn’t planned anything for dinner one night, which made me veer dangerously toward the flannel. (I was teetering on the edge, it wasn’t taking much at that point.) I remembered the free dinner I’d won from McGee’s, so I asked Evan if he was cool with driving all the way to Anderson.  (This is no more than a half an hour, but when you live in Pendleton/Clemson any drive longer than ten minutes becomes so far. When I first arrived from LA I was like, ???? Anderson is right down the road??? But now I, too, have realized just how far away it is.)

McGee's Irish Pub in far away Anderson, SC

Anyway, point is, Evan agrees to the trek, and we set sail for Anderson, intent on collecting our free dinner. I’m still angsty, but content in the knowledge that a server and a cook will be taking care of feeding me. Sometimes, on particularly overwhelmed days, that’s a big deal.  

Evan and I are, in many ways, like very old people. We eat lunch really early and we eat dinner even earlier. So, when we arrive, it’s just us and a handful of the aged. One older lady in particular is obviously a character. She’s in our section and she could’ve easily been included in the cast of Steel Magnolias. Hardcore Southern drawl, funny, a little nuts. At one point I turn, and she yells across the restaurant, “You’re the girl from story night!”

“Why, yes I am,” I say. The lady proceeds to tell her friends about me and my epic win, and she keeps using the phrase, “This girl wouldn’t quit!” I don’t really know what that means, but she appeared to be using it as a compliment, so, hey, I’ll take it. After basking in the warm glow of her nice words, and with a full belly, I suddenly realized, “Hey, I won a contest! I am a contest winner! I am fine! Life is good! Who cares whether my shoulder doesn’t work quite as well as it once did?”

And y’all, I didn’t get into it much before, but it was a pretty awesome win. You get instant feedback, as the crowd judges you. Each table has a score sheet, and as soon as the performer is done, each table raises their card. McGee’s has 25 tables.  After my bit was over, I looked out into the crowd, and I’m not even going to front – it was pretty wicked cool to see 24 “10’s” out there. One table in the back gave me a “9.” One of my competitors was sitting at it.

Even more wicked cool was the incredible group of people who came out to support me. It was a beautiful case of worlds colliding. My parents meeting horse friends meeting gym friends meeting book trailer friends meeting work buddies meeting my writing group sisters meeting friends so old they’re more like family. 17 people showed up to cheer me on, and they were LOUD. It was helluva a lot of love and support.

I am a profoundly lucky human being. I am surrounded by wonderful people. I have a wonderful family and wonderful friends. They not only let me be me, they encourage it. I don’t know how many people can say that, but I know it’s not enough.

Thanks to Lisa (writing group sister) and Julia (horsey soul mate) my stand-up routine made it on to YouTube. If’n you’d like to check it out: Here it is.

So….

It’s been awhile, mi compadres.

Since we last chatted a lot of things happened. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and I finally finished the first draft of my wip (work in progress), which most definitely remains a wip, as I’m only too aware of how underdeveloped the antigonist is, how unearned elements of the climax are, how a few ideas are brought up and abandoned, like unfinished stories in a conversation. Some of these things will be easy fixes, some of them will not. And there are two long, deserty stretches were things get real boring, for a real long time. Not even really boring. They get real boring. That’s how intense the boring is.

Also, this book, or rather, this wip, it’s a strange little misfit creature. It’s got a lot of stuff in there that I think a lot of people are going to find alarmingly odd. It’s all stuff I like, or rather, find fascinating. Freaks and demonic possession and the nature of evil and the nature of good and Irish people and Percherons and books and 19th century poorhouses and lunatics and how one goes about getting better. I even put in one horse show. I wasn’t going to put in the horse show, but then I was like, screw it, it’s my book, I’ll put a horse show in it if I want to put a horse show in it. If it doesn’t work, I can always take it out later. It just seemed self-indulgent, the horse show. Although it does serve two important plot points, so it’s not gratuitous.

And like Liz Lemon, I want to go to there. There being, specifically, the National Horse Show as held in the second incarnation of Madison Square Garden in New York City. The National Horse Show, now in Lexington, Kentucky, remains a big deal today, but then it was even a bigger deal, in the same way all horse events were a bigger deal before the advent of the motor car. And here’s the thing, back in the day, those people liked to decorate with flowers like nobody’s business. We don’t do flowers today like they did then. Probably an issue of an expense, because the effect was so amazing.

I actually can’t find any of the pictures I want to find (typical) that shows the flower mania at its full extent, but here’s some other shots that give an idea of what it was like. Click here to see the first picture full size.

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National Horse Show, 1908

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National Horse Show, 1909. They went with ribbons this year.

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What people wore to the National Horse Show. It was a white tie event.

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What Madison Square Garden looked like in 1890.

What Madison Square Garden looked like in 1890.

So, long story short, I put it all into the book. And by book I mean, work in progress.

Scenes from a Marriage

1 hour ago, in a small house in a small town in a small, Southern state.

Wife has infected sliver in her right index finger.

A lovely meal is shared – chicken with yogurt sauce, green beans and watermelon for dessert. The meal is finished. Wife decides to fix finger.

Husband: Did you just bite a hole in your finger?

Wife: Yeah.

Husband: With your teeth?

Wife: Yeah.

Husband: At the dinner table?

Wife: Yeah.

Husband wears looks of digust.

Wife: Ya wanna see it? (She shows husband hole in finger.) Oh, hey! There WAS a sliver in there! I can see it!

Wife fiddles with finger.

Wife: I guess I should go take care of this.

Husband: Yes.